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11 June 2009

Indian PM urged to take up Suu Kyi issue with Myanmar

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A group of 118 Indian MPs on Wednesday appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ask the Myanmar government to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and impress upon the military regime to respect democratic principles, state news agency PTI reported.

Cutting across party lines, the MPs in a memorandum to Singh said India should intervene in the current situation to urge upon the Burmese generals through all "possible diplomatic and other demarches to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi".

Indian Parliamentarians' Forum for Democracy in Burma (IIPFDB) co-convenor Sharad Joshi said India should change its policy towards Myanmar and try to establish contacts with the people and not with the military regime.

The MPs also said Burmese believe that there will be no inclusive political process and free and fair polls in 2010 if Suu Kyi and more than 2100 political prisoners are not released.

In a related report, AFP quoted a Myanmar court official as saying that Myanmar pro-democracy icon has met with her defence lawyers in jail as her legal team vowed to push ahead with an appeal to allow more witnesses at her trial.

An appeal court in the military-ruled nation on Tuesday allowed her to call a second witness at her closed prison trial -- a legal expert has already given evidence -- but upheld a ban on testimony by two key members of her party.

Her lawyers went to visit her at the Insein Prison in Yangon on Wednesday, a Myanmar official said on condition of anonymity, without giving further details about the meeting.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching the conditions of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home in May.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and a member of her legal team, said before the visit that they would now try to get the remaining two witnesses at the trial.

They are Win Tin, a dissident journalist who was Myanmar's longest serving prisoner until his release in September, and Tin Oo, the detained deputy leader of the NLD.

"We will submit application to the high court tomorrow," Nyan Win said.

So far only one legal expert, Kyi Win, has testified on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi. The prosecution has called 14 witnesses, most of them policemen. Her trial is due to resume on Friday for a procedural hearing.

Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers had initially accused the ruling junta of trying to push through to a widely expected guilty verdict, but diplomats said the regime now wanted to buy time to defuse the storm of protest over the trial.

US President Barack Obama has described the court proceedings as a "show trial" while Myanmar's usually reticent Asian neighbours have expressed strong concerns.

The 63-year-old opposition leader has been detained for 13 of the past 19 years since the junta refused to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in the country's last democratic elections, in 1990.


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